In distant times, Halloween was associated with an old agricultural festival that marked the beginning of winter. One can read a detailed description of the origins of the long tradition of this holiday in these two articles in Salon and History.com.
Seen over the blogosphere are these interesting Halloween nuggets of information:
- Trick-or-treating is an Irish tradition, based on a custom where wealthy landowners would give food to the poor on Halloween night, believing ghosts would look favorably on them for doing so and spare them from mischief.
- A popular Halloween drink in 18th century Ireland was "lambs-wool," which consisted of roasted, crushed apples mixed into milk.
- Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).
- The legend of the Jack-o-lantern started with a man named Jack, who was a notorious drunk and practical joker. Jack was said to have tricked the devil into climbing into a tree. He then carved an image of a cross into the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil in the highest branches of the tree.
- Some superstitions associated with Halloween: If a girl puts fresh rosemary and a silver coin under her pillow on Halloween, she will see her future husband in a dream. Girls who carry a lamp to a spring of water on this night are said to be able to see their future husband in the reflection.
- To avoid being recognized by ghosts who returned to wander the earth, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. (The History of Halloween.)